My Precious Stuff
by Joesph O’Day
Inside a bureau drawer in my parents’ dining room, there’s a grayed envelope filled with old pictures. I take it in hand and wonder if I should do a quick flip-through, a close inspection, or store it for later. Maybe I should just throw it out, since I’m already overloaded with photos.
I’ve taken this August week off from work to clear my mother’s house and prepare it for sale. Since Dad’s death twenty years ago, Mom has lived alone in this large two-family, until the need for permanent nursing home care forced her to leave. At this moment, this first day of cleanout, the house’s sole occupants are seven decades worth of stuff, a testament to my family’s distaste for letting things go.
I inspect the envelope. Hidden beneath familiar prints are five 2 x 3 color photos, a family series—my mother and father, and Dad’s mother, father, sister and brother. They’re dressed formally, perhaps having been to church or a wedding. The day is sunny and dry, the background, the Salem Willows. My favorite is of Dad and Mom together. Dad’s in suit and tie, his arm around her waist. Mom’s in high heels and yellow dress, nestled into his side. They smile broadly. The date stamped on back is 1946. A year prior, my father had completed his World War II tour as an Army Medic. They’ll marry in three years, have my sister and me in eight. Mom told me how shy my father was when they dated. He was exactly what she wanted, a gentleman, quiet and mild-mannered, not savvy with women, physically strong and courageous. And a non-drinker; she’d witnessed enough alcoholism in her young life to want alcohol out completely. It’s a beautiful photo, something I’ll always treasure.